Summer Scholarships

The Faculty of Agriculture and Environment invites students from outside the Faculty to apply for their Summer Research Scholarships in the departments on Plant and Food Sciences and Environmental Sciences. These scholarships are a great way to gain research experience and an insight into research process while working alongside leading scientific researchers from the Faculty of Agriculture and Environment.

The Faculty will offer up to 10 scholarships, each scholarship is valued at $488/week (APA rate, tax exempt). Additional travel funds up to $250/week can be offered for students residing outside the Greater Sydney area

Scholarships will be awarded primarily on academic performance.


The Agriculture and Environment Summer Research Scholarships are open to:

  1. University of Sydney students not enrolled in our Faculty degrees who have completed 2nd year in a Science or Engineering based undergraduate degree.
  2. Students from other universities in Australia and New Zealand who have completed at least two years of a full time program and who are interested in honours or higher degree research.

Students enrolled in FAE degrees:
Current students in degrees in the Faculty of Agriculture and Environment looking for similar summer research experience are encouraged to discuss this with Faculty staff members, as they are not eligible for these scholarships.

Project dates

Projects run for four – six weeks, generally commencing in late November and concluding in late February.

Students must be available for the full duration of the project although specific dates can be arranged with their supervisor. (Please note the University will close on the 19th of December and reopen on 5nd of January 2015.)

How to apply

  • Complete the application form.
  • Include a personal statement, no longer than ONE A4 page.
  • Include a copy of your transcript (if not a University of Sydney student).
  • Submit by 4pm on Friday 29 August 2014.

Important dates

Applications open: 29 July 2014
Applications close: 4pm, Friday 29 August 2014
Offers made: 30 September 2014
Deadline to accept offer: 14 October 2014



  1. Field monitoring of soil moisture;This work is part of a larger project aimed at predicting soil moisture in space and time using a combination of a water balance model, statistics, field observations and remotely sensed data. While the details of the project can be adapted to the skills and interest of the student the likely focus will be on calibrating the soil moisture sensors and focusing on water balance modelling at individual sites. This will involve field work in southern NSW, lab work and computer-based modelling. The student will gain experience with field instruments for measuring soil moisture, field soil survey, laboratory measurements of soil physical properties and soil water balance models. (Supervisor: Dr Tom Bishop)
  2. Estimating ignition delay times in forest fires: How quickly a fuel will ignite is proportional to the amount of energy supplied to it. Based on this it is possible to predict the ignition delay times of fuels during a fire event. However, studies- to-date have concentrated on materials used in building construction especially for the purposes of fire safety applications. Forest fires can pose significant risks to life and property as well as having significant environmental effects. Being able to predict how quickly forest fuels will ignite can give land managers important information in deciding how to manage the risk of fire. In this project, different forest fuel types will be burned under controlled conditions to determine their ignition delay times. This information will then be used to see whether predictive models developed for building materials are applicable to the natural world. (Supervisor: Dr Malcolm Possell)
  3. Post-harvest field pea characteristics: Field peas are a popular winter legume crop in NSW. The harvested peas are valued for their high protein content and digestibility for both animal and human food markets. The market for both feed and seed uses requires the product be of particular size, colour and shape, however these are influenced heavily by both the cultivar type and the growing environment. A large field trial with 70 pea cultivars and breeding lines was grown in multiple locations in 2014, and this project will assess the post-harvest characteristics of these lines to determine the influence of the genotype and environment on the phenotype. The research will be conducted at the I. A. Watson Grains Research Centre in Narrabri (north-west NSW). A better understanding of the differences between genotypes and how they vary when grown under different environmental conditions will help breeders and growers select appropriate lines for the market. (Supervisor: Dr Angela Pattison)
  4. Diagnostic genetic marker development for the wheat stripe rust pathogen caused by Puccinia striiformis f. sp. tritici.: Wheat stripe rust caused by Puccinia striiformis f. sp. tritici (Pst) causes catastrophic annual crop losses and is recognized as one of the most important cereal diseases found in almost every wheat growing region of the world. Previous research at the Plant Breeding Institute (PBI) at Cobbitty has determined that there have been two exotic incursions of Pst in Australia (1979 and 2002). Both of these diverse pathotypes (pts) have since developed virulence to many important resistance genes in wheat. A historical isolate collection maintained under liquid Nitrogen at PBI comprises all pathotypes surveyed in Australia since the first incursion of Pst in 1979. Recent advances in DNA sequence technology now permit genotype by sequencing genotypic analysis that enables the generation of potentially 1000s of highly informative SNP markers that have diagnostic capabilities. The aim of this project is to identify diagnostic markers for different pts of Pst and different formae species of P. striiformis to inform future incursions and identify avirulence genes in Pst as well as determine the population dynamics of Pst in Australia.
    This project will involve: Inoculation and sampling of chosen Pst pathotypes on defined host genotypes, DNA extraction of a panel of both diverse and closely related Pst pathotypes and isolates from the PBI collection including the barley grass adapted formae speciales Puccinia striiformis f. sp. pseudohordei and Quantification and arraying of DNA samples to be sent to Diversity Arrays technology for genotypic analysis. (Supervisor: Dr Peter Dracatos)
  5. Non-host resistance in Australian Barley to the wheat stripe rust pathogen (Puccinia striiformis f. sp.tritici).: Wheat stripe rust caused by Puccinia striiformis f. sp. tritici (Pst) causes catastrophic annual crop losses and is recognized as one of the most important cereal diseases found in almost every wheat growing region of the world. Previous research at the Plant Breeding Institute (PBI) at Cobbitty has determined that there have been two exotic incursions of Pst in Australia (1979 and 2002). Both of these diverse pathotypes (pts) have since developed virulence to many important resistance genes deployed in Australian wheat varieties emphasising the importance for new sources of resistance to Pst. Pst mostly infects wheat however some barley varieties have shown to be highly susceptible. Very recent evidence at PBI demonstrates that an important Australian barley variety shows intermediate susceptibility to the 1979 pt, however highly resistant to the 2002 pt of Pst. This suggests that there are resistance genes in barley that are effective against different pts of Pst which could be exploited for improved disease resistance in wheat.
    This project will involve: Testing Australian barley varieties with multiple Pst pts to assess the extent of race specific resistance in barley to this non-adapted pathogen; Inter-crossing resistant with susceptible barley varieties to develop populations for the genetic analysis of race-specific resistance to Pst in barley and Genetic analysis of existing barley populations at PBI that are likely to segregate for resistance to Pst. (Supervisor: Dr Peter Dracatos)
  6. Remediation of Soil Contaminated by Salmonella enterica (2 opportunities). Contamination of soil by human pathogens is a major challenge for the fresh food produce industry. Salmonella is the second highest cause of food-borne disease in Australia, and improper use of animal manures during vegetable production is potentially a significant source of pre-harvest contamination. We have a collaborative research project with the Center of Produce Safety at the University of California, Davis to develop remediation strategies that can effectively eliminate or reduce pathogen populations in Salmonella-contaminated soil.
    Certain plant species produce chemicals that have antimicrobial activity or that convert to compounds with antimicrobial effects during plant decomposition. The design of cover cropping or crop rotations to suppress soil-borne pathogens, known as ‘biofumigation’, is an environmentally-conscious strategy for pest and disease management that is receiving renewed attention as we seek to minimise reliance on chemical controls (pesticides, biocides, fungicides) and improve the sustainability of agricultural production.
    Opportunity 1: Extraction and analysis of phenolics in soil
    Your role will be to assist with the development and validation of accelerated solvent extraction and solid phase extraction methods for the concentration and purification of phenolic compounds from soil. This project would suit a student who enjoys lab work and wants to get hand-on experience in analytical chemistry. You will learn how to approach the optimisation and validation of analytical methods, in addition to having training in technical extraction and analysis skills. If interested, you will have opportunities to learn about other elements of the project, e.g., the high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) analysis, microbiology work, and field trials.
    Opportunity 2: Monitoring pathogen populations in soil
    We are planning to conduct our first field trials for this project this Summer. Your role will be to assist with the monitoring of Salmonella and Listeria populations in the soil. This project would suit a student who enjoys microbiology and is interested in food safety. You will learn how to do sampling, enumeration, selective enrichment and detection of bacteria in the soil. We use conventional plating (with some new automated equipment) and PCR-based methods. As in the previous description, there will be opportunities to learn about other elements of the project. (Supervisor: Dr Kim-Yen Phan-Tien).
  7. The following 2 project are with Supervisor: Dr Floris van Ogtrop
    The presence of trophic links between the micro, meso and macroscales is a strong indicator of the health of the ecosystem. Understanding the food web relationships at the microscale may allow us to predict the health of the ecosystem under different environmental conditions. It is therefore important to develop tools that allow us to assess what is happening at the microscale. This project is part of an ongoing objective to develop a molecular screening protocol that can be used to sample the microbiota of different ecological systems. It will involve the searching of molecular databases and the analysis of data that is generated. Applicants will need to have some basic understanding of molecular biology.
  8. PROJECT 2
    Recent collaborative research between the school of biology and the department of environmental sciences has shown that Mucor sp. Isolated from dam water may reduce the growth of the toxic cyanobacteria Microcystis aeruginosa. However, the mechanism by which this occurs is not yet understood. The two most obvious explanations are competition for resources and allelopathy. Therefore we propose to set up an experiment to test the hypothesis that competition for resources is the cause of decreased growth in Microcystis sp. This experiment will involve initially growing co-cultures of the fungi and cyanobacteria. Then growing cyanobacterial cultures will be added to the filtrate of the co-culture in order to test whether there may be chemicals in the filtrate which inhibit growth. Applicants will need to have some basic understanding of microbiology.
  9. Remote monitoring and geospatial registration of plant pathogens
    An autonomous airborne spore capture system is under development to register locations and concentrations of fungal plant pathogens. This project will provide validated integration of the capture system with gps. The system will be trialled by being carried at walking pace and mounted on ground and airborne vehicles. Candidates for this project will preferably have undertaken study in the areas of biology, engineering, software, electrical systems.
    Supervisor: Dr Will Cuddy
    Cosupervisor: Dr Philip Boughton, Faculty of Engineering & IT